Arizona: Seeking L.G.B.T.Q. support at a ‘Trump Pride’ event in Phoenix.

Arizona News

Oct. 17, 2020, 3:02 p.m. ET

Oct. 17, 2020, 3:02 p.m. ET


Supporters of the president at a “Trump Pride” event in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Arizona has 11 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

PHOENIX — As she stepped up to the stage in a rainbow-lighted ballroom of a downtown Phoenix hotel, Kelli Ward, the Arizona Republican Party chairwoman, acknowledged the oddity of her introducing a panel of gay Republicans supporting Mr. Trump.

“I know that the media’s heads are exploding because conservative Kelli Ward is here at a ‘Trump Pride’ event,” she said.

But there she was on Wednesday, hosting members of a “Trump Pride” coalition that is hitting key battlegrounds as the president attempts to claw back support in states he won four years ago.

During her short stint in the state legislature, Ms. Ward’s staunch opposition to Democrats’ message of inclusivity helped cement her position as one of Arizona’s most hard-line conservatives. She supported amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and voted to protect business owners who refuse service to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender customers (former Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed the legislation).

But now, with Mr. Trump flagging in the polls here and the possibility that her legacy will be of presiding over the decline of conservative rule in Arizona, Ms. Ward boasted of the Republican Party’s growing reach into the L.G.B.T.Q. community it had once spurned. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to say the initials.

“I like to just call it the pride community — is that OK with you guys? — because they keep adding initials,” she said.

The crowd numbered fewer than 100, and most in attendance didn’t seem to need persuading to vote for Mr. Trump. Aside from occasional references to the fact that gays and lesbians vote based on issues other than their sexual orientation, the panelists largely leaned on hyperbolic statements about Mr. Trump’s record as “the most pro-gay president ever.”

They pointed to his history as a former Manhattanite who contributed to AIDS charities and opened his Mar-a-Lago club to gay couples, and his pledge to combat the criminalization of homosexuality globally. They noted that he is the first Republican presidential candidate to have an L.G.B.T. coalition (the campaign doesn’t include the Q, which stands for queer or questioning).

Nobody mentioned that the president has barred transgender people from serving in the military, backed religious freedom measures that allow discrimination and said he would “seriously consider” naming Supreme Court justices who would outlaw same-sex marriage.

Chadwick Moore, a conservative commentator and writer, hit a common theme, arguing that coming out as conservative was more difficult than coming out as gay. He said more L.G.B.T.Q. people want to vote for Mr. Trump, but are scared of retaliation from the community and from the left.

“The way L.G.B.T.s vote is more through social pressure,” he said. “They see what happens to you when you step out of line — they saw what happened to someone like me.”

Gay rights groups panned the event as a farce by a desperate president whose record on L.G.B.T.Q. rights is out of step with public opinion.

“The mere presence of anti-equality extremists like Kelli Ward and Chadwick Moore at this Trump Pride event is proof that his campaign’s L.G.B.T.Q. outreach is a sham,” Bridget Sharpe, Arizona director of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement before the event. “Nobody who knows the history of these extremists can listen to a word they say and believe they are allies in our fight for equality.”

Oct. 17, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 17, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET


Senator Kamala Harris at an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority gala in 2019. Ms. Harris became a member of A.K.A. as an undergraduate at Howard University.
Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.8 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

MILWAUKEE — When Mr. Biden named Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, many leaders of color here instantly recognized a “sister” in the vice-presidential nominee.

That’s because Ms. Harris is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, one of nine historically Black sororities and fraternities known as the Divine Nine.

Members of the Divine Nine have a strong presence in Wisconsin activism and politics, and Ms. Harris’s presence on the Democratic ticket has helped energize their efforts in this election year — one already marked by unrest over racial inequality, a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color and fears of voter suppression.

In Milwaukee — a city ranked among the worst places in the nation to be Black according to metrics like employment, education and incarceration — Black voters are hearing an increasingly vocal and unified message from neighbors they trust.

When Ms. Harris debated Vice President Mike Pence this month, about 25 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Marquette University chapter, Mu Beta, gathered for a watch party via Zoom.

“The question about racial justice was really important and could be a deciding factor for voters,” said JaMisha Matos, one of the people on the call.

Camille Willis, who was also watching, noted how Ms. Harris attacked Mr. Trump’s record on judges. “I didn’t know Trump didn’t appoint any African-Americans to the federal appellate court,” she said.

Jasmine M. Johnson, 39, who is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and holds a master’s degree in management, said in an interview that Ms. Harris’s nomination was empowering. “In corporate America, I almost never interact with someone who looks like me” in high-ranking positions, she said.

It also re-energized the coalition Ms. Johnson spearheaded in 2018 to merge the efforts of 15 local Black community organizations — including the N.A.A.C.P., Jack and Jill of America, the Milwaukee Urban League, the Links and Divine Nine chapters — to hold voter registration drives and candidate forums and staff local polling sites on Election Day.

While the Divine Nine, like other nonprofit groups, do not endorse political candidates, Ms. Johnson said their “unified messaging” stressed voting and health care rights.

Ms. Johnson said much of the negative pushback toward the Biden-Harris campaign that she was hearing was often related to Ms. Harris’s record as a prosecutor. “Folks are paying attention to how many Black men she locked up,” Ms. Johnson said. “She could benefit by spending time on that issue.”

Several Black Wisconsin politicians are Divine Nine members, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, State Senator Lena Taylor and State Representative LaKeshia Myers, all of Milwaukee; and State Representative Shelia Stubbs of Madison.

Some of them appeared in a “Divine 9 Weekend of Excellence” voter motivation video last month. “Our Black and brown communities have been dealt the hardest impact of the pandemic,” Mr. Barnes said, citing “historic numbers of people out of work” across the state.

Ms. Stubbs warned that “many out there would like our voting suppressed.”

Nadiyah Groves, 40, the Biden campaign’s Milwaukee director, said Wisconsinites of color paid attention to college-educated leaders.

“There’s a fondness and support there because we come from those communities,” said Ms. Groves, a former president of the Milwaukee branch of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Divine Nine’s umbrella organization.

“It’s about being real and authentic,” she said. “I’m from the 53206 ZIP code — I’ve lived that experience,” she added, referring to an impoverished Milwaukee neighborhood that is 95 percent Black and known for its high incarceration rate.

Oct. 17, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET

Oct. 17, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET


Signs for each candidate in Annville, Pa. President Trump was the first Republican to win the state since 1988.
Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

NAZARETH, Pa. — Lorin Bradley is a registered Republican who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 mostly because he didn’t like Hillary Clinton. But he has already voted for Mr. Biden this year.

Mr. Bradley, 56, said he regretted his decision to vote for Mr. Trump shortly after the last election, and has been dismayed by Mr. Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think he should have taken it more seriously,” said Mr. Bradley, a human resources manager at a pharmaceutical company. “That’s just another example of his many lies. He should have not downplayed it as if it was just another bout of the flu.”

Mr. Bradley predicted that the surrounding Northampton County in eastern Pennsylvania, one of only three counties in the state to vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 after backing President Barack Obama in 2012, would swing back to the Democrats this time because voters are “tired” of Mr. Trump. “He’s worn people out,” he said.

But Bill Schwab, a retired beer wholesaler and a registered independent, says he will vote for Mr. Trump again because he likes the president’s tax policies, and he’s worried that a Biden administration would be too liberal.

“I’m afraid of the other side, what they’re going to do once they get in, as far as taxes and that type of stuff, and just the way they want to give away the farm,” Mr. Schwab, 65, said in an interview outside the post office here in Northampton County.

Mr. Schwab said he’s not happy with the president’s management of the pandemic, although that won’t affect his voting decision. “It’s a pandemic, he shouldn’t have acted like it was going to go away,” he said.

In a county that Mr. Trump won by less than four percentage points in 2016, voters on both sides predict this year’s result will be close. But Democrats’ hopes were buoyed on Oct. 6 by a Monmouth University poll showing Mr. Biden leading by 53 percent to 42 percent in the 10 Pennsylvania counties — including Northampton — that were the most closely decided four years ago, when Mr. Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania as a whole.

Janice McGrogan, a Democrat who said she and her husband have already voted by mail for Mr. Biden, thinks Mr. Trump will again win the county, which she said is dominated by Republicans who harass Biden voters.

Wearing a Biden-Harris face mask outside a supermarket, Ms. McGrogan said she had been warned by a health worker not to wear the mask when she takes her husband to a hospital appointment. “She said if you want your husband to have good medical care, do not wear this mask in the doctor’s office,” said Ms. McGrogan, 63, who worked in the county prison until she retired.

Deb Hayes, 64, a retired schoolteacher who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, said she would like to vote for him again because she opposes abortion. But she’s concerned about the way he has behaved as president, and said she’s undecided.

“I don’t like his leadership,” Ms. Hayes said. “So many times, I’ve kind of thrown up my hands and thought: ‘What is he thinking?’”

Oct. 17, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET

Oct. 17, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET


A supporter of President Trump on Interstate 75 in Michigan this week.
Credit…Allison Farrand for The New York Times

Michigan has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

ELK RAPIDS, Mich. — In big ways and small, Michigan voters are showing their allegiances in the final weeks leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.

There was the group of half a dozen voters standing on a pedestrian walkway over Interstate 75 in Flint, waving Biden-Harris flags last Saturday, or the hundreds of cars draped in Trump 2020 flags that drove the state’s highways on Sunday.

But in tiny Elk Rapids, population 1,642, along the shores of Lake Michigan, there was a larger sense of urgency for the 58 people who gathered along U.S. Route 31 to show their support for the Democratic ticket and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Just a few miles away is the vacation home of Ms. Whitmer, where the authorities said a group of gun-wielding men had stalked the house in a failed plot to kidnap her. Six men have been charged in that scheme.

The pro-Democrat group has been gathering every Monday afternoon for the past month to display their signs and wave to cars whizzing by. Many have met Ms. Whitmer over the years and felt that the plot to attack her was an assault on a neighbor.

So when a pickup truck swerved onto the shoulder this week and drove perilously close to the crowd, with someone inside shouting profanities at the demonstrators, there was a noticeable tension and more than a few steps taken to increase the distance from the roadway.

But there was also a defiance from the biggest crowd so far — usually about 20 to 30 people show up — even as rain began to fall and more cars honked in approval as they passed by.

“You get the thumbs up. You get the thumbs down. You get the middle finger,” said Ann Craig, 76, a retired schoolteacher from Kewadin who carried a hand-painted sign that read “Whitmer Strong = MI Strong.”

“But this is something I can do,” Ms. Craig said. “And it’s something that I’m eager to do.”

For many years, northern Michigan has been a lonely place for Democrats. Reliably Republican, Antrim County went decisively for Mr. Trump in 2016, giving him a 4,000 vote edge over Hillary Clinton.

But Linda Boynton, 57, of Rapid City, a retired engineer who recently moved to the area from Chicago, said the last four years have prompted her to get more active in politics. She used to identify as a Republican and became an independent in more recent years.

“This is the first year I’m saying that I’m Democrat,” Ms. Boynton said. “This year it just means so much for our country. Science is getting put by the wayside and that’s extremely alarming to me.”

“Last week, we were told that we were communists and should go home, but that’s why we all said we wanted to come here,” she continued. “The Trump supporters are very vocal up here, but there are a lot of Biden’s supporters up here too.”

Oct. 10, 2020, 9:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 10, 2020, 9:00 p.m. ET


The first day of early voting in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Arizona has 11 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

TUCSON, Ariz. — Election month began in Arizona on Wednesday, when officials dropped roughly three million ballots in the mail and thousands of voters headed to early voting sites across the state.

Joe Romero, 59, a veteran and former construction worker from Mesa, was among the first in line to vote.

Mr. Romero, a Republican, supported Mr. Trump. But he also voted for Mark Kelly, the Democrat challenging Senator Martha McSally, saying he liked Mr. Kelly’s professionalism during a debate on Tuesday and was turned off when Ms. McSally repeatedly referred to her opponent as “counterfeit Kelly.”

“He didn’t call her names or question her patriotism, he just called her out on the issues — and I was impressed by that,” Mr. Romero said, referring to Mr. Kelly.

Polls have consistently shown Mr. Biden leading the presidential race in Arizona, though every poll puts the candidates within the margin of error. Still, Mr. Trump is polling slightly better than Ms. McSally, who lost a 2018 race for the Senate before being appointed to fill John McCain’s seat.

Mr. Romero acknowledged the president’s unprofessional behavior, but he said he was willing to make an exception for Mr. Trump because he reminded Mr. Romero of his younger self, full of confidence and ready to fight anyone who crossed him — like a character in the old Western movies that he grew up watching.

“That’s what we need in a leader of our country,” he said. “Just because he’s a deplorable human being doesn’t mean he can’t be a good president.”

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Ms. McSally is straddling a difficult divide: Democrats and left-leaning independents see her as a shill for the president, while a subset of Republicans argue she hasn’t done enough to back Mr. Trump.

For much of her campaign Ms. McSally emphasized her ties to the president. But she had recently started disassociating herself, including during the debate, when she refused to say if she was proud of her support for him.

“She is so much further behind in the polls that the more erratic that the president gets, the more we see Martha McSally start to distance herself from President Trump,” said Emily Ryan, a Republican consultant in Arizona. “Even though he’s faring better in Arizona, she has no hope of winning if she’s tied to him.”

Theresa Stevens, 45, an independent voter from Tucson, voted for Mr. Trump on Thursday, saying that while she wasn’t originally a fan of the president, he had kept his promises and earned her vote — the first vote she has cast in her life.

But she didn’t support Ms. McSally, she said, because she didn’t know enough about the down-ballot candidates to make an informed decision.

“I left a lot of those blank,” she said.

A Georgia voter in this year’s primary election. Both major parties are intensely courting women in places like the suburban Sixth Congressional District.
Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

Georgia has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 5.1 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated a Tossup.

ATLANTA — A big pink bus made its way through the suburbs north of Atlanta on Wednesday, emblazoned on one side with a large photo of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. On the other side was a slogan: “She Prays She Votes.”

The bus was part of a multistate voter education campaign sponsored by a conservative women’s group. There was a time when navigating such a billboard-on-wheels through Cobb County might have amounted to preaching to the choir. But these days, the Atlanta suburbs are one of the most hotly contested political spots on the map of the South, thanks to demographic change and a distaste for President Trump — especially among women.

Democrats will be watching these suburbs closely on Nov. 3. If Mr. Biden is to notch an upset in Georgia, he will need strong support among highly educated women in places like Cobb County, along with statewide minority turnout to rival the years when Barack Obama was on the ticket.

Mr. Trump carried Georgia by five percentage points in 2016, but Cobb County, as well as suburban Gwinnett County, another former Republican stronghold to the east, shocked the state’s political establishment by voting for Hillary Clinton.

Four years later, the courting of women voters by both major parties is more intense than ever in places like the suburban Sixth Congressional District, which covers parts of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb Counties. There, women furious with Mr. Trump provided a big lift to Jon Ossoff, a Democratic congressional candidate, in a 2017 special election that garnered national attention and millions of dollars in donations from far beyond Georgia.

Mr. Ossoff lost the 2017 race, but a fellow Democrat, Lucy McBath, won the Sixth District a year later. This year, Mr. Ossoff is running for a Senate seat, and Ms. McBath is locked in a tight race against the Republican she unseated, Karen Handel.

The McBath-Handel rematch is playing out largely on television, with ads reflecting the broader messages of the presidential race. The pro-Handel forces echo Mr. Trump’s assertion that a vote for Democrats will mean crime and mayhem for the suburbs.

One ad, from the National Republican Congressional Committee, features a white woman with a ponytail jogging through the woods. “We moved here for peace of mind, safety,” says a female narrator, who goes on to assert that crime has gotten “out of control” and that Ms. McBath voted to release violent criminals from prison (an apparent reference to a multifaceted coronavirus relief bill passed by the House of Representatives that would, among other things, release some federal inmates susceptible to Covid-19).

An ad released by Ms. McBath’s campaign is even more blunt. It asserts that Ms. Handel “enables” Mr. Trump, and features video of Ms. Handel on a stage, bragging, “I have one of the strongest Trump support ratings of any member in Congress, at 98 percent.”

The 30-second ad also shows Ms. Handel and the president on a stage exchanging quick, friendly cheek kisses. Later, the moment of the kiss is shown in a freeze-frame — apparently in case anyone missed the point the first time around.

Oct. 10, 2020, 5:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 10, 2020, 5:00 p.m. ET


Delaware County is one of the suburban areas that could determine whether President Trump wins Ohio.
Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Ohio has 18 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 8.1 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated a Tossup.

DELAWARE, Ohio — Here in this suburb of Columbus, supporters of the president aren’t surprised that he contracted the coronavirus.

But they aren’t particularly worried about it, either.

I feel like at some point, in my opinion, everyone has either had it or is going to get it,” said Rachel Antonelli, as she walked through the historic downtown, not wearing a face mask. “The president is obviously around a ton of people. So it’s no surprise that it happened.”

Pregnant with her second child, Ms. Antonelli, 35, describes herself as “against the whole mask thing,” saying she believes the virus can travel through a mask and finds it difficult to breathe while wearing one.

“I feel like you’re inhibiting yourself when you’re wearing the mask,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter how careful you are going to be. If you’re a person that’s going to get it, you’re going to get it.”

Like many suburbs, Delaware County is one of the areas that could determine whether Mr. Trump wins this perennial swing state. After Mr. Trump won the state by eight percentage points in 2016, many Democrats wondered whether they could find a path to victory in Ohio. Defeats in the midterm elections prompted some to write off the state almost entirely.

Yet recent polling has shown the Buckeye State, like other battlegrounds across the country, slipping away from the president. A poll released on Wednesday by The New York Times and Siena College showed the race in Ohio virtually tied.

Much of the dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump can be traced to the low marks voters give his handling of the coronavirus — for both the country and himself. A majority of voters in the poll, including about 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters, said the president did not take adequate precautions to protect himself from the virus.

The lack of transparency from the White House over when the president first tested positive and about his current condition has created an atmosphere of uncertainty around his illness, prompting voters across the country to speculate wildly about his health.

In Delaware, Mr. Trump’s backers had an almost fatalistic take on the president’s illness but generally believed his infection was not serious.

“Walking around without a mask, it’s risky. This year, nobody’s above getting it,” said Karen Assini, 71, a retired pricing analyst who plans to vote for Mr. Trump for a second time this fall. “We all have free will. We all make our own choices.”

Democrats were also unsurprised by the president’s diagnosis, though they had a very different opinion of his behavior.

“It was the result that you would expect from the way he conducted himself,” said John Tanoury, a lawyer in Upper Arlington. “I don’t think he’s faking it, although I suppose you couldn’t rule it out.”

He quickly added, “I didn’t want him to die or anything like that.”

Oct. 10, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 10, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET


A voter dropping off a ballot at a drop box in Detroit last month.
Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Michigan has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

DETROIT — Even before President Trump urged his supporters to “carefully” watch polling places on Election Day, ministers in Detroit were devising a plan to ensure a peaceful experience for voters who choose to show up at the polls on Nov. 3, rather than mail an absentee ballot.

The effort stemmed from concerns that “people were going to take advantage of Michigan’s open-carry laws and stand outside the polls with their military weapons and intimidate people,” said the Rev. Dr. Stephen Bland Jr., the senior pastor of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. “So we decided to have clergy in collars at polling locations as well,” he said.

The news on Thursday that the authorities in Michigan had foiled what they said was a plot to overthrow the state government and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lent new urgency to the effort. Some of the 13 men arrested had attended a demonstration in April at the State Capitol in Lansing, arriving armed to protest lockdowns ordered by the governor to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 100 ministers have gone through training to help out at the polls, primarily in Detroit, but in other urban communities in the state as well. The initiative is called Collars and Lawyers, because lawyers are also volunteering on Election Day to deal with any legal issues that might arise at voting sites.

The visible presence of pastors wearing their clerical clothing at the polls could help de-escalate tensions if they arise, and the clergy members could escort voters who are wary of passing any poll watchers or protesters at precincts, especially if anyone is armed, said the Rev. Dr. James C. Perkins, pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit.

He did the same thing in 2016 at his church, which doubles as a polling precinct on Election Days, but tensions weren’t as high then as they are now, he said.

“Unlike any previous election year, we’ve had a president who has already told his followers to show up and watch voters at polling places,” Dr. Perkins said. “We want to be prepared so if we see any suspicious activity, we can report it. And it will be calming for those who are there to vote.”

Dr. Perkins noted that the 2016 elections had gone off without a hitch, but he said he didn’t want to take anything for granted. “We can make certain that people aren’t hassled when they’re trying to exercise their right to vote,” he said.

Oct. 10, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 10, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET


Supporters of President Trump last month watching the first presidential debate, in Old Forge, Pa.
Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

ALTOONA, Pa. — In Blair County, where Mr. Trump trounced Hillary Clinton by more than 45 percentage points in 2016, no one is expecting a victory for Mr. Biden this time, but there are signs that the president’s huge majority could dwindle.

Interviews here found both Republican and Democratic voters predicting that there may be less support for the president in central Pennsylvania because of his downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic, his response to the nationwide protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, and statements by him that some consider unpresidential.

Democrats hope that fewer votes for the president in this and other rural Pennsylvania counties, together with a strong turnout for Mr. Biden in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other cities, might erase Mr. Trump’s winning statewide margin of just 44,000 votes in 2016.

“I’ve heard some Republicans saying that they’re going to vote for Joe Biden — they don’t like Trump,” said John Benton, 70, a retired accountant who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and said he would do so again this year.

A poll published by Monmouth University on Tuesday said Mr. Trump had a 22-point lead in the counties he won easily in 2016, including Blair. That was little changed from his position a month ago but behind the 34-point margin he achieved in those counties’ actual votes four years ago.

Lucinda Royal, 61, formerly a registered independent who switched to the Democrats and plans to vote for Mr. Biden, said she believed that the president’s attempts to trivialize the pandemic and encourage people not to wear masks would cost him support among some local Republicans.

“In my perception of talking to people, it has weakened,” said Ms. Royal, an administrator at the Altoona campus of Pennsylvania State University, predicting that Mr. Trump would still win the county but not by as much.

Even if local support for the president is not as strong as it once was, it is still heavily in his favor, said Christian Searcy, 20, a prep chef in a local restaurant. “I’m not hopeful because of how many Trump signs I see,” he said. “You see maybe four Biden signs in a day as opposed to maybe 50 Trump signs.”

But he said the scarcity of Biden signs might also reflect Democrats’ fear of being harassed.

“People who are voting for Biden might not have Biden signs in their yard for safety reasons,” he said. “Trump supporters get really riled up about anything that puts his presidency in danger.”

Mr. Searcy said he wasn’t excited about Mr. Biden’s policies but would vote for him because he sees ejecting Mr. Trump as the highest priority facing the country.

John Seely, 52, a registered Republican, said he would vote for Mr. Biden this year in the hope of regaining a national unity that he said had been lost under Mr. Trump. “We’re at a point where we need someone who is not going to be so divisive, who is going to collaborate,” he said.

But Benjamin Umbower, 45, a restaurant worker, said he had no doubt he would vote for Mr. Trump again this year.

“I’m a Republican, I’m not a socialist, like Democrats,” said Mr. Umbower, who was waiting for a bus. “Look what Biden wants — he wants medicine by the government, and he wants all the businesses leaving this area for other countries like Obama did.”

Oct. 3, 2020, 7:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 3, 2020, 7:00 p.m. ET


Supporters of President Trump at his rally in Duluth, Minn., on Wednesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Minnesota has 10 electoral votes. In 2016, Clinton won the state by 1.5 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

HIBBING, Minn. — The wintry layout of northeastern Minnesota is arranged with lakes and forests and small mining towns that form the Iron Range, a region long synonymous with pro-union members of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. But rural voters feeling abandoned by the party’s metropolitan factions have more recently gravitated toward Republican alternatives.

That cultural shift manifested in 2016 when Mr. Trump infiltrated D.F.L. strongholds on the Range, promising to strengthen the iron-ore and steel industries and support proposed copper-nickel mines near wilderness areas. Hillary Clinton carried Duluth and the northeastern counties, but Mr. Trump flipped the Eighth Congressional District, which encompasses the Range and had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Now Mr. Trump is trying to become the first Republican presidential candidate to win Minnesota since 1972, visiting the district twice in recent weeks to try to add to his 16-point margin from four years ago.

At a campaign rally Wednesday at Duluth International Airport, the president told roughly 3,000 supporters that “Obama closed the Iron Range and I opened it.” It was his last rally before his coronavirus diagnosis took him off the campaign trail.

“Thousands and thousands of workers,” Mr. Trump told the crowd. “They were all laid off. And now they’re all back.”

His words rang true for elected officials and union members from the Range who drove 70 miles south to see him. But Aaron Brown, an author and historian who teaches at Hibbing Community College, said the region’s mining industry was cyclical regardless of Mr. Trump’s claims. “We’ve been opening and closing like a shutter open in the wind every two years to four years for the last 20 years,” he said.

At least 1,750 miners were temporarily laid off this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most have returned to work, but U.S. Steel’s taconite mine in Keewatin remains idled, as do hundreds of miners.

Six Republican mayors from the district endorsed Mr. Trump for re-election in August, echoing his assertion that the Range has been thriving “for the first time in a long time.” But leaders from the United Steelworkers union quickly issued a rebuttal letter, arguing that President Obama’s tariffs on Chinese steel in 2015 reopened mines. Mr. Trump also imposed tariffs on imported steel, but it was “a little too late” to save jobs, the union said.

In Chisholm, Cheryl Zgonc organized a D.F.L. protest the following month, demanding that the small town’s mayor retract his endorsement of the president or resign. “Trump is coming up here to secure the Range because he can’t secure the Twin Cities,” said Ms. Zgonc, a 55-year-old Delta Air Lines employee whose husband is a union member at U.S. Steel’s Minntac Mine in Mountain Iron. “We’ll be pro-Biden up here and I think we’ll stay blue. People think it’ll be a different outcome because they’re so loud.”

Hours before Mr. Trump’s arrival in Duluth, Mr. Biden’s campaign announced endorsements from 45 northern Minnesota leaders and released a seven-page economic plan for the Iron Range.

Cal Warwas, a union member at the Minntac Mine, drove from his home in rural Eveleth to Mr. Trump’s Duluth event. He said he had struggled to support his wife and their nine children when Mr. Biden was vice president. “That was a really dark time for the Range,” said Mr. Warwas, 44. “When people talk about Obama’s administration fixing everything, I say: ‘You already failed. The suffering didn’t ever have to happen.’”

He is siding against his union leaders in supporting Mr. Trump, whom he described as a savvy business leader always in his corner. “I don’t know how the rest of Minnesota is going to go,” he said, “but in rural Minnesota and the Iron Range, I’ve never seen people more excited to vote for a Republican.”

Mr. Brown, the historian, said Mr. Trump could easily win the region, but not the state. “The Trump campaign and the Republican Party have grasped onto the Range as a symbol that they’re bringing back these old industries that were maligned by Democrats and liberals and environmentalists,” he said. “It’s a great story and that’s what they’re selling. But there’s not enough people here to change the vote in Minnesota or the country.”

Oct. 3, 2020, 5:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 3, 2020, 5:00 p.m. ET


Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.8 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Every year since 1961, crowds have filled La Crosse’s streets during the last weekend of September for what is billed as the longest-running Oktoberfest in the Midwest, a time when everyone shares Gemütlichkeit, a spirit of welcome and good cheer.

The coronavirus pandemic scuttled the 2020 event. The streets were nearly empty last weekend, and the mood in La Crosse was hardly cheerful.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Wisconsin recently, and the White House coronavirus task force has designated both the state and La Crosse County as “red zones” with high rates of infection.

Mr. Trump had planned a campaign rally this weekend in La Crosse, but on Thursday his campaign moved it to Janesville — before suspending its events entirely after the president’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Last Saturday evening, some students from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse partied on lawns and some residents hit the downtown taverns. That annoyed Brianna Oliver, 29, who is working nights so she can help her 7-year-old daughter with virtual schooling during the day.

“People were posting yesterday on Snapchat that they were confirmed positive for Covid, but they were out and about — no one was wearing masks, not even the police,” Ms. Oliver said.

Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic has shaped the political views “of everyone I know,” she said, especially after he “made light of it.”

“Most people are ready for a change,” she said.

By Sunday afternoon, the U.W.-La Crosse campus was mostly silent. “Everything is closed,” said Lucas Joniaux, 18, a freshman who sat at a picnic table with his classmates Kaden Appleton, 19, and Elliot Sankey, 19.

Mr. Sankey noted that with coffee shops shuttered, he sometimes walks to a Kwik Trip gas station for snacks.

Kwik Trip is a well-liked employer headquartered in La Crosse, which is also home to a large hospital and a Mayo Clinic facility, providing a mix of professional and blue-collar jobs as well as Democratic and Republican voters.

But like so many other communities, La Crosse, a city of 50,000, has been hit economically by the pandemic. Mark Goede, a co-owner of the Breakfast Club & Pub on Main Street, said many restaurants and taverns were struggling.

The La Crosse area is home to many Catholic voters; the La Crosse Diocese includes 158 parishes across 19 counties in west-central Wisconsin. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have been pursuing white Catholics in the Midwest, some of whom they see as persuadable voters.

The differences at two churches in La Crosse on Sunday morning illustrated how both parties see opportunities among the faithful here.

The mood was somber at St. James the Less, whose pastor, the Rev. James Altman, has drawn attention for a YouTube video posted in August in which he denounced Democrats’ support for abortion rights, the Black Lives Matter movement and other issues. “You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat, period,” he said.

“We’re seeing Satan unleashed and his minions working,” Father Altman said on Sunday before distributing communion, leaning forward to place the hosts on the tongues of the shoulder-to-shoulder faithful, who, like the priest, eschewed the diocese-mandated masks.

Jean Weymier, 58, who drove from West Bend across the state to see Father Altman, said: “He says the truth. The Democrat Party is evil.”

But at St. Joseph the Workman parish in downtown La Crosse, where masks were ubiquitous, one churchgoer, who declined to give her name, strongly disagreed.

“It saddens me because it’s not what the church is about,” she said of Father Altman’s video. “Abortion is a complicated issue, and Catholics can certainly be Democrats.”

Oct. 3, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 3, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, said her actions helped save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit…Allison Farrand for The New York Times

Michigan has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

DETROIT — There hasn’t been a Trump campaign event in Michigan in the past four months that hasn’t included a chance for supporters to sign a petition that could limit the powers of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, one of the president’s chief adversaries.

The group spearheading the effort, Unlock Michigan, has been seeking to repeal a 1945 law that gives the governor broad authority to declare emergencies during a public health crisis. It turned in more than 500,000 signatures on Friday, with the hopes that the Republican-controlled Legislature can act on the petition before the end of the year.

Under the law, Ms. Whitmer signed executive orders shutting down most of the state’s businesses during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 139,000 people and killed more than 7,000 in Michigan. She has extended the state of emergency every month, but she has also gradually allowed businesses to reopen with limited capacities.

Unlock Michigan’s efforts may have been superseded late Friday when the Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4 to 3 ruling, said Ms. Whitmer did not have the authority to extend her original emergency declaration after it expired on April 30, noting the extensions “violated the Michigan Constitution because it delegated to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government and allowed the executive branch to exercise those powers indefinitely.”

Ms. Whitmer called the ruling “deeply disappointing,” noting that it will not go into effect for 21 days and promising to use other sources of authority to deal with the virus in Michigan.

Mr. Trump’s campaign hadn’t coordinated with Unlock Michigan, but he added fuel to the effort. He started on April 17, tweeting “Liberate Michigan!” two days after thousands of people protested the lockdowns at the State Capitol in Lansing.

He has continued to call on Michigan and other states to fully reopen. And at Tuesday’s presidential debate, he singled out Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, key battleground states with Democratic governors.

“You’ve got to open these states up,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s not fair. You’re talking about almost, it’s like being in prison.”

“This is what Trump has inspired in the state: liberate Michigan and attack Whitmer,” said John Sellek, a Republican political consultant in Brighton.

Fred Wszolek, a spokesman for Unlock Michigan, said the organization would not stop its effort after the ruling.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing because a different court could reverse the decision and we still want to get the law repealed,” he said.

Under Michigan law, citizen-led petition initiatives approved by the Legislature are not subject to a veto by the governor. But the signatures first have to be vetted by the Bureau of Elections and approved by the Board of Canvassers, a process that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has said could take more than 100 days.

That pushes a possible vote on the petition into 2021, when the partisan makeup of the State House of Representatives could change. All House seats are up for election in November and Democrats need to flip four of them to take over the majority.

Unlock Michigan is prepared to sue the state to get the signatures certified much quicker so the Republican majority can repeal the law before the end of the year, Mr. Wszolek said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, however, has opened an investigation after an Unlock Michigan trainer was filmed telling employees how to use deceptive measures to get people to sign the petitions.

Mr. Wszolek said the group had thrown out more than 800 signatures gathered by employees who were trained by that person.

Oct. 3, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 3, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET


Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

MEDIA, Pa. — Scott Richardson, a restaurant owner in the Philadelphia suburbs, used to be a registered Republican and voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. He has since registered as a Democrat, and he says he will vote for Mr. Biden this time because he is disappointed by the president’s handling of health care and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Richardson, 64, from Swarthmore in Delaware County, said he was “excited” to vote for Mr. Trump four years ago because the candidate promised to “drain the swamp” and reform health care. But, Mr. Richardson said, he has done neither as president.

“One of his campaign promises was that he was going to eliminate Obamacare but he was going to come up with something else, and I have not heard of any program that set forth what they’re going to do,” Mr. Richardson said. “All it’s been is, ‘Get rid of it.’”

Mr. Richardson’s vote for the Democratic ticket will be one that officials from both parties expect will deliver Delaware County for Mr. Biden. Democrats currently enjoy an advantage in voter registrations over Republicans in the county — a margin of almost 38,000 — and in 2019 took control of the county council for the first time since the Civil War.

Democrats also have a registration edge in the three other suburban counties outside Philadelphia, leading party officials to hope that a strong showing for Mr. Biden in southeast Pennsylvania could offset strong support for the president in rural areas of the battleground state.

Tom McGarrigle, the chairman of the Delaware County Republican Party, said he did not expect Mr. Trump to win the county, given a “blue wave” that began to take over local politics in 2017.

But he said he had noticed a shift toward the president over the past month among customers at his auto repair shop, driven by concerns about the violence that has broken out during largely peaceful protests in some cities, including Philadelphia. He also cited a monthslong homeless encampment on a Philadelphia sports field whose leaders have defied requests by the administration of Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, to disperse.

“A lot of it has to do with what’s going on in the country, with the defund the police departments, the rioting and the lack of action by the Democratic mayors in these big cities,” he said, referring to growing support for the president. “People look at the city of Philadelphia, and it scares them.”

Mr. Richardson, the former Republican, said health insurance premiums were a top concern. The rates for himself and his wife, Theresa, have doubled during the Trump administration, and he is worried that the Affordable Care Act may be scrapped; Mr. Richardson has pre-existing conditions and uses the insurance made available by the law.

What clinched the decision to switch his vote this year was Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which Mr. Richardson said had failed to show national leadership when it was badly needed. “How can you trust a man who has not stepped up to the plate?” he asked.

A volunteer with the Harris County Democratic Party directed people to a Houston drive-in event to watch the national convention last month.
Credit…Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Texas has 38 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 9.0 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Republican.

HOUSTON — It’s been a long time since a Democrat won Texas in a presidential race. “Disco Duck” ruled the airwaves and “All the President’s Men” was all the cinematic rage the last time it happened. The year was 1976, when Texans selected Jimmy Carter over Gerald R. Ford.

Nearly 44 years later, people in Texas and beyond are wondering if Mr. Biden can pull a Jimmy Carter. The answer so far is yes, no, maybe not and maybe so. You hear some version of the four depending on whom you ask and whether they live mentally or physically in red Texas or blue Texas (both are a place as well as a state of mind).

“Put me down as a yes,” said State Representative César J. Blanco, a Democrat and Navy veteran in El Paso. “It’s looking like a perfect storm for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in Texas.”

“No, I don’t see Biden being successful, and his own campaign does not either — zero serious efforts being waged 40 days out with early voting starting in just 20 days,” said David M. Carney, a Republican strategist who has advised former Gov. Rick Perry and other top Texas conservatives.

Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on anything in battleground states. In Texas, they cannot even agree on calling it a battleground. For many Democrats, the notion that Texas is a battleground state in 2020 is its own kind of victory — an acknowledgment that the decades-long Republican grip on the state has loosened and its solid red hue has started fading to purple.

A series of polls suggests such a seismic shift stirring: A New York Times/Siena College survey of Texas published Thursday found Mr. Biden trailing Mr. Trump by just three percentage points, within the poll’s margin of error.

“I don’t need to tell you, Texas is the biggest battleground state in our country,” Hillary Clinton told Texas Democrats on Thursday in a video speech at an annual fund-raising dinner.

Some Texas Republicans bristle at the description. A handful of Democrats have cut it close in Texas in recent years: Mrs. Clinton herself lost to Mr. Trump in 2016 by only nine percentage points and Beto O’Rourke was defeated by Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 by just two percentage points. But Republicans point out that the last time any Democrat won statewide office in Texas was 1994. How can a Democrat win Texas for the White House, they ask, when a Democrat cannot even win Texas for state agriculture commissioner or state attorney general?

State Senator Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican, sees another factor at play: the new fight over a Supreme Court nomination, which he said would help Mr. Trump energize his supporters and win votes from independents and Republicans who had been dissatisfied with him.

“I think the chance is gone at this point,” Mr. Bettencourt said of whether Mr. Biden could win Texas. “A few months ago, maybe there was a chance. But now, no. Too many hot buttons have been hit all at the same time.”

Classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are being conducted online this semester.
Credit…Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated a Tossup.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — I have visited this charming college town too many times to count over the years, sometimes to cover campaigns and more often for fun. But I’ve never seen Chapel Hill as quiet as I found it last weekend.

The coronavirus has closed down a number of local landmarks, like Crook’s Corner restaurant, and forced the University of North Carolina to conduct classes online, leaving some students in town and others back home.

The candidates on the ballot this year are trying to adjust. Students whom I interviewed said there were voter registration efforts taking place via text messages and social media, while some professors were using their video-conducted classes to encourage undergraduates to register.

Around town, there were signs of such efforts. Literally.

“Double Check, Make sure you are registered to vote at your current address,” read one lawn sign, planted next to a tree a block off Franklin Street, the beating heart of the community. It instructed passers-by to “Search NC DMV Voter.”

A nearby pub was offering on-site voter registration along with its takeout offerings and another lure: dog treats. The red, white and blue banner read, “Bark the Vote.”

Some Democrats, as is their wont, are nervous about the implications of voting in the age of Covid-19. They wonder if the students, from North Carolina and beyond, who attend the state’s many excellent universities will still find a way to cast their ballots. My conversations with those around town suggest that at least those who have remained in Chapel Hill intend to vote.

Whether they do in large numbers, though, could make the difference between Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden winning the state.

Most every political veteran in North Carolina, Democrat or Republican, is expecting a close race. Each of the last three presidential races in the state has been decided by less than four percentage points.

The Supreme Court fight could reshape a neck-and-neck race — a New York Times/Siena College poll this month found Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden effectively in a dead heat in North Carolina. But a number of people in the state have already voted: Absentee ballots began going out to the state’s voters three weeks ago.

What’s on many of their minds was made clear to me by a woman who, seeing me walk dejectedly away from a closed Crook’s Corner, pulled her S.U.V. over to lament what the virus has wrought and suggest a few places in town that remain open.

But as she beckoned me over to her open, passenger-side window she first offered an admonition in a honeyed, Carolina accent: “Mask up, buttercup.”

Sept. 26, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 26, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET


A worker mounted a voter registration sign in Milwaukee last month during the week of the Democratic National Convention.
Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers’ famous racing sausage mascots rambled about the sprawling parking lot of the Miller Park baseball stadium for a few hours on Tuesday, but they weren’t there to promote sausage or baseball: It was National Voter Registration Day.

The people in the sausage costumes had no need to don face masks, but a few dozen Milwaukee election workers were wearing them, along with high-visibility vests, as they held the city’s first drive-through voter registration event.

Wisconsin allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day, but Jessie Eisenhauer, 39, a medical researcher who needed to change her registered address, chose instead to drive to Miller Park on her way home from work.

“Normally, I would register the day of, but with this pandemic going on, I think less time spent at the voting facility is probably better,” said Ms. Eisenhauer, who wore a colorful mask depicting shelves of books and a smiling bookworm.

Despite the good cheer in the parking lot, election workers were trying to reverse a troubling trend: declining voter registration in Milwaukee in recent years.

The number of registered voters is down by 30,000 since 2016, thanks in part to the state’s purges of inactive voters, according to Claire Woodall-Vogg, the city’s election commissioner. About 300,000 people are currently on the voter rolls.

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many residents away from city libraries and grocery stores, which traditionally host voter registration tables, the commission added the drive-through registration option this year, and plans to allow drive-through voting, too.

“We registered 70 City of Milwaukee voters at Miller Park and helped 87 people apply for a ballot by mail,” Ms. Woodall-Vogg said of the event on Tuesday. She added that the stadium grounds also would be used for “true, drive-through voting” on Oct. 20, the first day of early in-person voting in the state.

At a voter registration table set up on Tuesday outside a Cousins sandwich shop in the Midtown neighborhood, Marian Cotton hesitated, then went to her car to fetch her ID.

“I didn’t vote in 2016,” Ms. Cotton, a 53-year-old school bus driver from Milwaukee, admitted. “I was really not motivated.”

“There is no change in Milwaukee,” Ms. Cotton added. “We want racial equality and a peaceful way of life — an end to all this violence.” This fall, Ms. Cotton says, she will vote for Mr. Biden and will encourage family members to vote, too.

Kushan Stampley, who was helping Ms. Cotton, discovered that she had previously registered but needed to update her address. “See? That was so easy to do,” he said. “We could do it all on your phone.”

“It helps that we’re out here,” said Mr. Stampley, who works for Souls to the Polls, an alliance of Milwaukee churches that works to encourage voting. Of the eight or nine people who stopped to register that day, Mr. Stampley said, most had never voted. “They don’t feel it will make a difference,” he said.

Charmaine Clayborn, however, was eager to register for the first time, noting that, for years, she could not vote because of a felony conviction. “I served my time and I completed my probation,” she said. (In Wisconsin, ex-felons may vote if they are no longer in jail or on extended supervision.)

“I want to vote so I can make a change,” said Ms. Clayborn, 33, a manager at a different Cousins shop. “There’s too much hurt and killing in the world and Black people not getting a chance. A lot of my people don’t vote, but we’ve got to get up and vote, if we want to be heard, not just protest. I’m trying to do that.”

Sept. 26, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 26, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET


Supporters crowded into an event where Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and others spoke in Chandler, Ariz., on Tuesday.
Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Arizona has 11 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — More than 800 people lined up early on Tuesday morning to see Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and Charlie Kirk, the 26-year-old founder of Turning Point USA, speak at a hotel here.

The queue was dotted by red “Make America Great Again” hats. Some people wore T-shirts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory or with slogans like “Don’t California My Arizona.”

Inside, around 500 chairs were lined up as tightly as airplane seats. When those filled up, hundreds more people crammed in, standing shoulder to shoulder. When the ballroom could hold no more, organizers swung open its double doors and urged attendees to just keep squeezing in. Only a handful wore masks.

One man made the sign of the cross as he entered.

“This room only held 500; we probably squeezed 800 or 900 in there,” said Tyler Bower, one of the organizers of the event, part of the Students for Trump group’s “Four More Tour.”

People here might have been less worried about catching the coronavirus than the prospect that the president could lose Arizona, a once solidly conservative state where most polls have shown him trailing Mr. Biden. And if the reaction of the crowd was any indication, they were most worried about claims of child sex trafficking being imported to Arizona from California.

Onstage, Mr. Kirk, the younger Mr. Trump and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, offered up red meat to the crowd, much of it wildly exaggerated or without basis in fact. They complained about the persecution of conservatives, bantered about the “96 genders” that they said Democrats now recognized, suggested that Mr. Biden has dementia, and claimed that Osama bin Laden had once endorsed Mr. Biden.

But the event reached its peak as the three speakers took up the bogus conspiracy theory that Democrats condone pedophilia, They also took on “Cuties,” a French film released on Netflix that depicts preteen girls in a provocative dance crew, and that critics say hypersexualizes young girls.

“You know what the left is doing? They’re justifying ‘Cuties,’ they’re justifying pedophilia,” Mr. Trump said, pointing to a recently passed law in California that aims to end discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. young adults in statutory rape convictions. Conspiracy theorists associated with the QAnon movement have claimed that the law favors pedophiles, which it does not.

But the idea that the president is combating pedophilia, which is central to the QAnon theory, buoyed many in the crowd. “To me, the part that got our cheeks flushed and tingling was when everyone in the room stood up to applaud saving our children,” said one woman, who declined to give her name.

Not all of those in attendance were energized by the arguments.

Jonathan Gross, an 18-year-old Republican and finance student from Tucson, was one of the few wearing a mask inside the event. He said he had hoped to hear about the president’s policies and was disappointed to see that it was just a live trolling session.

He described the Trump re-election campaign as having the maturity level of a teenager.

“They were just throwing out a bunch of stuff, saying Joe Biden is basically brain-dead for having to read off a teleprompter, calling the left sheep, and that ‘Cuties’ argument,” he said. “I came to hear about what Trump is planning to do with his re-election, but it felt like just slander of the left.”

Sept. 26, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 26, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET


Officials in West Bloomfield Township, Mich., prepared mail ballots on Thursday to be sent to voters.
Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Michigan has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

DETROIT — Sarella Johnson is not one to curse, but she made an exception Thursday morning, the first day Michiganders could begin dropping off absentee ballots with local clerks.

“The last four years have been h-e-l-l,” she said, spelling out the profanity. “In every regard: in employment, in education, in the unity of the people in America. And the catalyst for all of the chaos is the president of the United States.”

That’s why Ms. Johnson, 61, a respiratory specialist, decided to get up early and stand in line with dozens of fellow Detroiters to drop off an absentee ballot at the Detroit Elections Department with a vote for Mr. Biden.

Joseph Lewis, 59, a Teamster from Detroit, brought his 18-year-old grandson Terrell Wells with him to vote for the first time.

“I wanted to be the first in line. We’ve got to vote him out,” Mr. Lewis said, referring to Mr. Trump. “It’s that simple.”

The coronavirus pandemic may be upending voting this year, and some voters have said they are wary of standing in long lines on Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped a surge of early voting and requests for absentee ballots in Michigan. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has said the total number of votes cast could exceed five million and set a record.

In many of Detroit’s suburbs on Thursday, the lines were not as long, but the clerks were working just as hard to prepare and mail out some of the 2.4 million absentee ballots that have already been requested statewide.

“I mailed out 31,000 ballots on Monday and expect that it could get up to 40,000,” said Susan Nash, the clerk of Livonia, a suburb of Detroit that has 79,000 registered voters. “We knew coming into 2020 it was going to be busy because it’s a presidential election year. But now, with Covid and all the absentees, this presidential year is like we’re having the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Olympics all at the same time.”

Debbie Binder, West Bloomfield’s clerk, has already mailed out more than double the number of absentee ballots that she sent in all of 2016, and she expects total turnout to approach 90 percent.

“One important message we’re pushing is that we have had mail delays,” she said. “That’s a very real situation. We’re telling people if you’re going to return your ballot by mail, do it early.”

Ms. Benson has encouraged voters to take advantage of a new state law that allows anyone to vote by mail, and she expects three million absentee ballots, a record.

Meanwhile, a coalition of dozens of organizations is urging people to vote early.

“There is such eagerness to participate this year that we have to make sure people know that they can do this,” said Dave Noble, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Michigan. “Now that there are 40 days when people can vote early, it should make it easier. And then the lines shouldn’t be as long as they usually are on Election Day.”

Sept. 26, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 26, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET


Members of the Luzerne County Democrats gathered to film a video of support for the Biden campaign in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., this month.
Credit…Sean McKeag/The Citizens’ Voice, via Associated Press

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Democrats are hoping to reverse Mr. Trump’s resounding win four years ago in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County, but they have a mountain to climb.

Luzerne was one of only three Pennsylvania counties to flip from supporting President Barack Obama in 2012 to supporting Mr. Trump in 2016. Among those counties, it gave Mr. Trump — who narrowly won the state as a whole — by far his biggest margin of victory, almost 20 percentage points.

Local Democrats predicted that many voters in this blue-collar former coal-mining county would switch back to the Democratic ticket after deciding in 2016 to take a chance on Mr. Trump and concluding now that he doesn’t represent their interests after all.

“There is indeed overwhelming support for Joe Biden in Luzerne County in 2020, and among them are a growing number of those who voted for Trump in 2016,” said Kathy Bozinski, chair of the county’s Democratic Party.

Ms. Bozinski said the strength of Democratic support was shown by large numbers of yard signs, volunteers and donations, but she was unwilling or unable to name any individuals who plan to return to the Democratic fold. She said many had privately expressed their change of mind but were wary about saying so publicly because they fear harassment from Trump supporters in a deeply divided county.

She spoke as a lone Trump supporter waving a blue Trump flag harangued two Democratic volunteers who were carrying armfuls of Biden yard signs out of the Democratic campaign office in downtown Wilkes-Barre, the county seat.

Justin Behrens, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party, said growing Republican voter registration and a switch to the party’s control of the County Council last year for the first time both pointed to solid support for Mr. Trump in this year’s election.

Local voters, Mr. Behrens said, approve of the president’s “America First” approach and believe that his economic policies boosted their retirement funds before the coronavirus pandemic convulsed the stock market. Republicans also support Mr. Trump’s social agenda, he said.

“The average person here is a pro-life, Second Amendment, Roman Catholic union worker, and you are starting to see those social aspects coming to the fore,” he said.

Luzerne County is whiter, older, poorer and less educated than Pennsylvania as a whole, according to Census Bureau data for 2018, collated by the Pennsylvania Economy League, a research group.

Thomas J. Baldino, an emeritus professor of political science at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, said the area’s socially conservative former Democrats helped Mr. Trump win the county in 2016 and would do so again this year.

“Trump will win Luzerne County, and possibly Lackawanna County,” Mr. Baldino said, referring to the neighboring county. “The only remaining question is by how many votes.”

Sept. 19, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 19, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET


Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times
Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

PHILADELPHIA — Mr. Trump may be a shoo-in to win deep-red Lebanon County, Pa., where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by two to one. But that hasn’t stopped some lifelong Republicans there from supporting Mr. Biden in response to what they see as the president’s divisive and damaging conduct.

Mr. Trump has failed to unite the country, said Tom Carmany, a retired physician and registered Republican from Annville, about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. “All I see is division, and I see chaos, hate, violence, inflammatory rhetoric, there’s stuff on Twitter all the time,” said Mr. Carmany, 83, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “It’s like dealing with a teenager.”

Duncan MacLean, 71, another retired physician and a former Republican, has been working phone banks for the Democrats this year. He said the voters he called appeared firmly decided and deeply divided. “Trump is either ‘the best president ever’ or a ‘depraved sociopath,’” he said. “Biden is either ‘an experienced unifier’ or ‘bowing to progressives too much.’”

There has been no sign that the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has cost him support in the county, Mr. MacLean said. “Any economic anger is directed against the Democratic governor for what people see as heavy-handed business restrictions.”

Republicans say Mr. Trump appears to be running even more strongly in the county this year than in 2016, when he won more than twice as many votes as Hillary Clinton. Republican voter registrations increased by 1,335 from June 1 to Sept. 15, well ahead of 282 for the Democrats and 394 for other parties.

“People are feeling a little more enthusiasm this time,” said Linda Jackson, 60, a Republican who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and said she would do so again. She said Lebanon residents were frustrated with Gov. Tom Wolf, who temporarily withheld federal relief funding from the county after its Republican-controlled commission defied his lockdown order in May.

Ms. Jackson, who works as a fund-raiser for a nonprofit, defended Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic. “The president in my opinion thinks outside the box, and he enlisted public-private partnerships to get the equipment, the ventilators, the P.P.E., all the things that we needed on the local level, to combat the virus,” Ms. Jackson said. “And he’s really ramped up this testing for a vaccine. I think he’s done a really good job.”

While Democrats have no expectations that Mr. Biden will win the county, they are working to turn out support in areas like the city of Lebanon that they hope will contribute to a victory in the battleground state.

“We will not win the county, but if we win the city and close the margins in the suburbs, it will help over all in Pennsylvania, so that’s our goal,” said Marilyn Boogaard, founder of Central Pennsylvania United for Biden, a voter registration group.

Leave a Reply